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on Aug 1, 2012 in Random Thoughts

How Much Do You Have To Show?

When I read a book, it’s often to be entertained where the storyteller paints a mental picture with words leading my imagination where they want to take it. I think a book is a great read when I get done, the story has peaked my imagination and the writer has taken me on a journey I really enjoyed. In this process, the storyteller doesn’t tell the whole story in the first paragraph. Rather, they take lots of time to tap my imagination and let my imagination ask questions, fill in blanks and at the end, satisfies my imagination by letting it know it was right. There’s nothing like a good book!

Can we do the same thing with our photographs? Can we show just enough to tap our viewers imagination and let their imagination do the job of being the storyteller? I’m not talking about cropping here though it is part of the process, I’m talking about moving beyond the basics of photo capture and moving into that realm many don’t see to consider. And that’s the viewer, their life experiences and how we can tap that to grab their imagination. If I were to have posted just the eyes and crown of the Statue of Liberty, you think there are many folks across the globe who wouldn’t have recognized it? If I just had a black shadow of a bison, think there are many who wouldn’t know it’s a bison? So then in our storytelling, our photographs, how much do we have to show?

I ask this question because of a number of images photographers have asked me to comment on in the past couple of weeks. Now I’m not an eyeball photographer, my subjects tend to be real small in the frame. What you see here are eyeball photographs, what was the “IN” thing when I started out 30yrs ago. I never really got into it because I always felt it never left the viewers imagination much room to look. I picked these iamges as examples because they are my best examples of the eyes tapping into your eyes and you’re asking, “What’s going on behind those eyes?” I also selected them because without showing the entire critter, you can easily figure out what species they are. So then, I not only tap your imagination, I make you ask and answer a question. I get you involved with the subject in the photograph.

I’ve seen images lately that the photographer was happy as hell (until they talked to me) with their photo just because it was in focus. As in, that was it’s only redeeming value. There is no doubt that in the beginning, sharpness, exposure and all those basics when they are in place provide us with a level of satisfaction. But this sorry to say is not enough which everyone figures out sooner or later. But then many look for what it takes to move their photos forward. Making images that tap into the viewers imagination is a real challenge, there is no easy way to do it, there is no formula, no online class you can watch to point the way. You have to tap your own imagination and ask it what makes it tick, what excites it? You then have to look in your viewfinder and find that answer your imagination just told you and put that in your photographs. And what goes hand in hand with your imagination? The all important think called passion. I realize that just grasping f/stops and shutter speeds are a challenge at times and that’s OK. I want to encourage you though to share your images and that greatest statisfaction from sharing comes from when you tap the viewers imagination and at the same time, satisfy it with the answer you provide in the same photograph. Just ask yourself a simple question to get the ball rolling. How much do you have to show?